One attack happened in the disputed region of Kashmir and another allegedly involved a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party.

Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi held a candlelit vigil at India Gate in New Delhi, saying that India “simply cannot continue to treat its women the way it does”.

 But leader Modi has yet to speak out on the two rapes – sparking friction in his party and adding to the outrage of demonstrators.
Anger: Indian members of Muslim community shout slogans as they hold placards and photo of Asifa Bano (EPA)

The protests were sparked as a police charge sheet revealed horrifying details of the alleged gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl, Asifa, in a Hindu-dominated area of Jammu and Kashmir state in January.

She was kidnapped, sedated and gang raped in a Hindu temple. The perpetrators kept her for days, then stoned and strangled her before dumping her body in the forest, police said.

A former government official and an officer who was investigating the parents’ complaint about their missing daughter are named in the police charge sheet.

Others are accused of trying to cover up the crime, and four police officers have been arrested so far, said Deepika Singh Rajawat, a lawyer representing the victim’s family.

 Campaigners have shared a picture of the smiling, brown-eyed little girl on social media with the line #JusticeforAsifa. Distressing images are also circulating which appear to show her body after the killing.
Indian people staged various protests to bring attention to rape cases and violence against women (EPA)

In a different case, a man died this week in police custody after accusing a lawmaker from the ruling BJP party of the abduction and rape of his 16-year-old daughter nine months ago.

Police had failed to investigate allegations against Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a member of the state legislature, but India’s Central Bureau of Investigation took over the case on Thursday.

Sengar has denied involvement, but the case has helped galvanise a movement calling for justice for rape victims.

“Both cases have shaken the conscience of the nation, shaken the hearts and souls of people,” said Feroze Mithiborwala, an organiser of a protest in Mumbai on Friday.

Rahul Gandhi, president of India’s main opposition Congress party, led a candlelight march on Thursday night in New Delhi.

Citizens’ groups are planning further protests in New Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata over the next two days, while thousands of people have taken to social media to seek justice for the victims.

Ministers have insisted that justice will be done no matter who committed the crime, while defending the government’s record on fighting violence against women.

But others disagree.

“Yet again we’ve failed as a society,” Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar said in a Twitter message. “Can’t think straight as more chilling details on little Asifa’s case emerge…her innocent face refuses to leave me. Justice must be served, hard and fast!”